Friday, April 13, 2012

The Score Board: 4/13/12.

(Thanks to reader “kctiger” for the title of this new column. “Score” as in 20, “Board” as in my analysis of where the Royals are at the moment.)

After the Cleveland Indians rendered this afternoon’s game the most anti-climactic home opener in Royals history, scoring seven runs before the Royals came to bat, the general consensus among fans was to blame Luke Hochevar for the full-on face plant.

That’s a reasonable first reaction. Hochevar did give up seven runs in the first inning, all of them earned. He allowed more runs in the first inning than the Royals had allowed in any of their six previous games. He allowed as many earned runs in the first inning as the Royals’ starters had allowed in the six previous games combined.

I’m not here to defend Hochevar. He was not sharp at all at the beginning of the game. He allowed eight hits in the inning. But let’s look at what happened in a little more detail:

Michael Brantley singled to center. This was a bloop single, a Texas Leaguer, not anything to get riled up about.

Asdrubal Cabrera doubled to deep right. This was a bad job by Hochevar – giving Cabrera a hittable pitch on a 1-2 count.

Shin-Soo Choo singled to right, Brantley and Cabrera scored. This is the turning point of the inning – Choo dribbled a ground ball to the right side, and Yuniesky Betancourt inexplicably was unable to move ten feet to his left to field the ball before it scooted past his outstretched glove.

You know how Alcides Escobar makes a fantastic play from deep in the hole and you have to rewind the play several times to figure out how he did it? This was the exact same thing, only the exact opposite – I had to watch the play over again just to figure how on God’s green earth Yuni didn’t get to this ground ball.

And on this one play, in the first inning of the first game at Kauffman Stadium this year, the concept that Betancourt might be a less atrocious defender at second base than he was at shortstop shattered. It was already fragile, mind you, but all spring long we heard the Royals make the claim that oh-my-God Betancourt is just such a good defender at second base, and we have to get him in the lineup, and you just wouldn’t believe the range he has at his new position.

And then he waves at a groundball that Frank White would have personally escorted to second base. I mean Frank White today. Rex Hudler could have come down from the announcer’s booth in his suit and tie and made that play.

Instead, it went for a two-run single, and the rest of the inning went downhill. If Yuni gets one out on that play, the inning ends with just two runs scoring. There’s no way to know what would have happened in subsequent innings; maybe Hochevar just keeps giving up line drives the next inning. But the arc of the game would have been completely different.

Carlos Santana struck out swinging. Shin-Soo Choo stole second base.

Travis Hafner grounded out to first. Choo advanced to third base.

Shelley Duncan singled to right. Choo scored.

This was one of the luckiest hits you’ll see all year. I’m serious. On an 0-1 count, Duncan was just trying to get out of the way of an up-and-in fastball, and somehow the ball hit the barrel of the bat – Duncan wasn’t even looking at the pitch as he tried to pirouette out of the way – at such an angle that it drifted over Eric Hosmer’s head and plopped down in no-man’s land down the right field line. It happens.

Casey Kotchman singled to right. Duncan advanced to second base.

Bad pitch. A hittable fastball on an 0-2 count.

Jason Kipnis tripled to deep center. Duncan and Kotchman scored.

The other brutally bad defensive play in the inning. Jarrod Dyson, who has played outstanding defense in his limited major-league playing time in the past, either completely misjudged the ball or completely misjudged the wind, allowing the ball to get over his head and land just out of his reach. This should have been the fourth out of the inning.

Jack Hannahan then singled, then Hochevar threw a wild pitch, then Brantley – who had one hit all season before the game – got his second hit of the inning, a double to cap the scoring. When Hochevar falls apart, he falls apart. That’s nothing new for him – his biggest weakness throughout his career has been his poor performance with runners on base compared to when the bases are empty.

But with a decent defense behind him, the Indians score two or three runs in that inning, and the Royals tie the game by the fourth inning. Dyson’s miscue was terrible, but it was also completely out of character for him. But while Dyson’s misplay was more obvious, it was Betancourt’s misplay that was inexcusable.

Not inexcusable for Betancourt himself – this is who he is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an infielder who has more difficulty going to his left. (Hard to blame him – he is a Cuban defector, after all.) When he played shortstop, it was the groundball up the middle that he couldn’t reach – now it’s the groundball in the 4-3 hole. But again, we knew that going in. The Royals, inexplicably, did not. The Royals sent down Johnny Giavotella because of his defense, but somehow are convinced that playing Betancourt over Chris Getz – against a right-handed pitcher, mind you – makes perfect sense.

It does not. It has not. It will not. Yuniesky Betancourt is a defensive liability, the one liability on the field this afternoon, and if the Royals want to give their pitching staff the best possible defense, they need to stop with this charade.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this happened in the home opener, because the Royals have the Field f/x equipment installed at Kauffman Stadium now. I can only hope that when Mike Groopman and John Williams get the data for that play, they’ll react with the sort of urgent panic you’d expect from the army translator who just picked up some chatter that the Soviets are about to launch.

If Getz is in tomorrow’s lineup, we can hope that Jin Wong burst into Dayton Moore’s office early this evening with a printout in his hand and a look on his face that said, “I have bad news.” The Royals’ mystifying commitment to Betancourt has cost them enough games.


Brian said...

"Hard to blame him – he is a Cuban defector, after all."


Unknown said...

I like this blog post series. One can only hope the Field f/x triggered a warning light that flashed in DM's face after that play.

The Professor said...

Aw, you guys and your fancy defensive metrics. As if the only objective measure of "good fielding" is whether or not someone can make the plays they are supposed to. What about his ability to shake off mistakes, and not let the fact he screws up easy plays make him worry at all about his performance? What about intangibles, like his infield chatter? Does he keep his glove clean and well oiled, or is it shabby and beat up? Is his cap worn at a jaunty angle? He must be really great at these types of things.

McGoldencrown said...

What would seemingly be on of the bright spots of the game, Moustakas' rbi double, in actuality, was troublesome. Moose pulls everything. The pitch he hit was on the outside corner of the plate and he flung the bat at the ball throwing himself completely off balance. 9 out of 10 times that is an IF pop-up. Not good. He should have taken that ball the other way or laid of it completely. If this was an isolated or uncommon occurrence, that would be one thing. It's not. He pulls almost everything. Again, Not good at all. .174/.174/.391 on the season. 0 BB, 6 K's.

Unknown said...

I will have to agree, I really like the short format. Makes it easy got my tiny brain to process.

kctiger said...

While I'm thrilled you took my recommendation for the title of the column, I wish the game had been a game longer than a "Score" of minutes. On the heels of Wednesday's bizarre ending, two really bad innings back to back.

Rogers Write said...

In this instance at least, less may be better. A very analytical, yet bordering on hilarious piece. On no lefty "Yuno", you were right! I thought he was supposed to be a backup infielder? If we aren't going let Getzie go then let's get Johnny back up here. The Hoch meltdown is a too familiar pattern. You hate to see him yanked too early but it seems like he gets shook and loses his confidence then tries muscling up only to get the pitches in bad locations. These guys can hit a 90 mph straight string. Seems purely mental, not physical, and that's good. But we are rightfully expecting so much more from him. He's young though, and I believe this bad experience will pay dividends later. I see them bouncing back strong tonight- let's get this bad taste out of our system quick!

nmstar said...

I think Yuni's awfulness inspires the amount of great prose as did Ted Williams' greatness. My hat tip to you Rany!

Unknown said...

I like the format, but I loved your longer posts as well. I check the site every day, and anything that increases the number of days I get to read your posts is a good thing. Also, Yuniesky Betancourt playing for the Royals makes me sad the same way that watching oil covered wildlife on TV does; its a travesty but there really isn't anything I can do about it.

Home Run Tony Cogan said...

love the posts, rany, and look forward to them...this team is in BIG trouble...absolute black holes in the lineup at 2B, CF, C, and SS and a rotation that is getting lit up like a Festivus pole...this team WILL lose 100 games this year and we'll be back to square heart hurts to think about what an absolute embarrassment it is going to be to have the All-Star game here with a team that's 24-58 as the host.

Chapin said...

Dammit. After 20 yrs of following this team, I do not fear being outspent or outgunned. I am resigned to those facts. I have only 2 major fears:
1. Whatever dipshtick manager/GM we have will mess this up with senseless personal decisions, and
2. We won't be the best young homegrown squad in our own division.
But it's just one series, right?

K.C.Tigerfan said...

Anyone else inspired by that comeback last night? I mean, I know we lost, but silver lining and all? Did you see the excitement on Moose and Hosmer's faces when they started hitting after the ridiculous "fight" started by Hanrahan?

Marco said...

Did Hawk Harrelson write this post?

'Sure, the Indians scored seven runs, but it was all because of mistakes we made...'

Hawk rule #1: Never ever EVER give credit to the other team.